Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition affecting millions of Americans. With this disease, a person’s airflow is gradually blocked due to lung damage. This causes some air to get trapped in the lungs as the person exhales, which can cause a number of other problems, ranging from respiratory infections to lung cancer. Knowing and watching for COPD signs and symptoms will help you treat the disease as early as possible and prevent more significant damage.
COPD Signs and Symptoms
Cigarette smoking often causes COPD. In fact, around 50% of smokers will develop COPD in their lifetime. Those living in areas with high air pollution, who have had chronic bronchitis, or who have been exposed to dust or fumes at work are at a higher risk for developing COPD as well. However, COPD can also affect people without these habits or conditions, so it’s important for everyone to watch out for it.
Common COPD signs and symptoms often don’t appear until there is significant lung damage. When they do appear, they begin to worsen over time, so it’s crucial to catch them early. Watch out for the following symptoms:
A Productive Cough
This is often the first symptom to present itself. Individuals with COPD will experience a persistent, productive cough (i.e., a cough that produces phlegm or mucus) that lasts for years. This cough will generally produce mucus that is white, green, yellow, or clear. Often, coughing is good for the body, as it clears up the airways. However, a cough this persistent means something in the lungs is not functioning as it should.
Shortness of Breath
Everyone becomes short of breath after lots of physical exercise. With COPD, a person experiences shortness of breath much more easily and intensely. When COPD is the reason behind it, even normal breathing can feel laborious.
Many individuals with COPD will experience episodes called exacerbations. During an exacerbation, the person’s symptoms will become noticeably worse than usual. This will persist for a few days, and the episode itself becomes a symptom.
While productive coughing and shortness of breath are the most common and indicative COPD symptoms, they aren’t the only ones. Other signs of COPD include the following:
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Lots of mucus production (For example, perhaps you notice that every morning you need to cough up phlegm or mucus, or maybe you do it a few times throughout each day.)
- Chest tightness
- Daily wheezing (Wheezing during a bad cold or the flu is common, but if you’re wheezing day in and day out, this is something you should bring up to your doctor.)
Keep in mind that only a medical professional can diagnose a person with COPD. If you’re noticing these signs in yourself or a relative, consult a physician before taking any further steps. On the other hand, some individuals’ COPD may not cause any signs (or may cause only mild signs). So even if you don’t think there’s a problem, we encourage you to continue monitoring your lungs’ health.
The most important thing to remember is that COPD is serious in and of itself, but it can also lead to other damaging conditions. Thus, it’s highly important to receive care as soon as you are diagnosed. If you want to know more about COPD, including risk factors and prevention, check out the website of the American Lung Association.
Are you or a loved one beginning to show any COPD signs and symptoms? If so, Phoenix Home Care can help. Our caregivers and clinicians work with patients in the comfort of their own homes, providing the same level of care they would receive in a traditional facility. We have a team of licensed professionals that serve individuals in four states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. To get more information on what we can provide, get in touch with us at 855-881-7442, or visit us online. We look forward to connecting with you.